Today more than 6 million women in the United States struggle with infertility.
Sadness of not being able to conceive a child naturally breaks any cultural and idealogical boundaries, and very often both Western medicine and Chinese medicine have to work together to make a dream come true for couples. While the two approaches are different in their core, each has its own merits.
Treating infertility with Chinese medicine involves drinking Chinese herbal teas, having acupuncture and changing lifestyle to achieve balance. Acupuncture is administered usually once a week and is tailored to follow the menstrual cycle of a client. Herbal prescription is taken 1-2 times per day and is modified on a weekly basis to reflect the progress. The total length of the treatment is not less that 3 menstrual cycles.
Western medical procedures for infertility are more sophisticated. Depending on what keeps a woman from getting pregnant, hormone therapy, surgery, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) like Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), or multiple varieties of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), such as Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT), Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT) or Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) might be administered.
Invasive Western medical procedures can perform miracles when the cause of infertility is severe, for example complete blockage of the fallopian tubes or large uterine fibroids. In less critical situations a gentler holistic approach with no side effects could just as easily increase a woman’s chance to become pregnant. Before committing to any serious medical procedures, it might be a better choice to explore holistic approaches for the period of 3 to 6 months.
When a woman turns to me seeking to enhance her childbearing function, the first thing we discuss is Basal Body Temperature (BBT) charting. In sleep your temperature drops a little bit lower than during the day, and it is referred to as the Basal Body Temperature. You can measure it easily and accurately right after waking up in the morning. BBT chart is a very important tool that shows health of your menstrual cycle. There are 4 parts of menstrual cycle: the follicular phase, ovulation, the luteal phase and menstruation. BBT reading during the follicular phase is slightly low, and it drops even more during ovulation, then it raises to the highest level during the luteal phase, and stays at this level until menstruation. During menstruation BBT drops again to the same level as in the follicular phase. If pregnancy takes place, BBT stays at the same elevated level as during the luteal phase.
After you have recorded data for the whole menstrual cycle, many things can be said about your body when the temperature record is matched against other information that you mark down in your chart, such as PMS symptoms, day of your period, condition of your cervical fluid, spotting and other signs. BBT chart can be used to determine the day of your ovulation, and thus you can plan for the best days for the intercourse, which has to take place prior to ovulation in order to achieve pregnancy. It can also help us to determine the treatment plan for healthy pregnancy.
Most importantly BBT charts help me make an accurate diagnosis from the point of view of Chinese medicine. Every part of menstrual cycle has specific qualities like yin/yang, heat/cold etc., which we expect a healthy body to have according to Chinese medical theory. By examining the chart, I see where hormonal disbalance is and what part of the cycle we need to work on to enhance fertility. For example, if temperature stays unstable during the follicular and luteal phases, this can indicate stagnation of energy in the body, most probably in the Heart or Liver meridian. In such cases I use acupuncture and herbal medicine to harmonize energy, and clear fire and excessive heat. If I see a saw tooth pattern, when the temperature does not have enough variation during the follicular and luteal phases, this indicates insufficiency of cool moistening, Yin Kidney energy, and requires the use of acupuncture and herbs to boost Kidney Yin.
BBT charting also serves the purpose of monitoring your progress. For example, if your BBT chart showed very unstable readings during the follicular phase due to stagnation of Heart Qi, you received 4 acupuncture sessions during the month that followed this reading, and you were taking an appropriate herbal formula, your chart is expected to show a more stable reading next month. Naturally, BBT chart reading showing temperature remaining high after the end of the luteal phase indicates pregnancy.
There are many resources on BBT charting online, including BBT charting applications. If you are interested in learning more, I’d gladly answer all your questions or hear your comments.
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